UMass baseball wins one of three to start A-10 play

After ugly loss Friday, the Minutemen rebound for clutch win Saturday


(Collegian file photo)

By Thomas Haines, Collegian Staff

The Massachusetts baseball team lost the rubber match against Richmond on Sunday, sputtering on offense en-route to a 7-1 loss. The Minutemen won one of three games in the series, which opened conference play.

UMass (7-6, 1-2 A-10) had been on a torrid run over spring break, scoring six or more runs in four straight games, but cooled off considerably over the weekend. Over all three games, the Minutemen scored just eight runs. In its one win of the weekend, UMass prevailed 2-1.

“Our offense is coming around, but it’s not going to be something that we rely on,” coach Matt Reynolds said. “We know we need to play clean baseball and pitch well to give us a chance to win, and our offense will do as much as they can on that day.”

In Sunday’s loss, starter Kevin Hassett gave up six runs in the bottom of the fifth and the Minutemen could not recover.

“We’ve got to avoid the blowup inning,” Reynolds said. “Guys are going to get hits against us, and guys are going to score runs, but we’ve got to be able to minimize what they’re doing — not turn a one- or two-run inning into a four- or five- and six-run inning. All of a sudden, we’re out of the ballgame.”

Facing Richmond’s Robbie Baker, the Minutemen only mustered four hits in Sunday’s game. On the positive side, UMass cut down on strikeouts and made solid contact.

“I didn’t think we swung all that poorly, but we made a couple quick outs with hard-hit balls right at people,” Reynolds said. “I think we hit into three double plays that were really smoked, just right at guys.”

UMass’ one win in the three-game set came on Saturday, where the Minutemen rode an eight-inning, two-hit performance from Brooks Knapek to a gritty 2-1 win. Starting at third, Marcus Fry powered the Minutemen at the plate, finishing with three hits.

Richmond’s biggest threat came in the eighth inning. After Knapek stranded a runner on third in the bottom of the seventh, Richmond’s Daniel Brumbaugh worked a one-out walk in the eighth. Tyler Plantier blasted Knapek’s 1-0 offering deep into left field, but UMass’ Dylan Robinson made a leaping catch as he crashed into the wall, then got the ball back into the infield to double up Brumbaugh and end the inning.

“[Knapek] came up with a big pitch every single time he needed to,” Reynolds said. “And Robinson made one of the best plays I’ve ever seen in left field to save the game.”

Richmond threatened again in the ninth, putting runners on first and second, but Casey Aubin got two strikeouts to seal the win.

“It was good to see us, after a devastating performance on Friday, to just be able to grit that out and really just will a victory,” Reynolds said.

On Friday, the UMass bullpen cratered in a 17-5 loss. Ace Justin Lasko started the game and was tagged for six runs, but the Minutemen put up four in the fifth inning to keep the game close. After the fifth inning, Lasko was pulled and UMass brought out a series of relievers, each of whom gave up at least two runs as the game got out of hand.

Still, Reynolds highlighted the mental toughness of the Minutemen in rebounding on Saturday to pull out a close win.

“There’s going to be five to seven games in A-10 play that are going to be like that, and depending on which way they go is which way our season goes,” Reynolds said. “There’s not going to be too many games, if any, that we come out and blow somebody’s doors off. That’s just not how we’re built.”

UMass baseball will look to bounce back on the road against Albany on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.